Some estimate that 20% of the population perished, though it may have been a much higher number if the volcanic gases were excessively toxic. Thousands fled the city in the afternoon darkness, blacker than any Roman citizen had experienced (except in Jerusalem when Jesus Christ was dying on the cross). The falling debris rapidly accumulated in Pompeii to several feet in the streets and on rooftops, making escape impossible for the thousands who sought shelter in their homes.
On the second day, the darkness enveloped Misenum where Pliny the Younger and his mother had remained, 19 miles to the west of Vesuvius. By this time, they were convinced that the whole world was about to perish. By the end of the second day, Pompeii was buried below 20 feet of stones and ashes. Only the tops of the highest buildings protuded above the ruins.
There was enormous disaster relief funding provided by the Roman Senate for the area surrounding Vesuvius. This natural disaster proved to be a financial catastrophe for Titus, who succeeded his father Vespasian to become Emperor only 3 months earlier. Many Jews in the Empire claimed the eruption was God's punishment for Titus having destroyed Jerusalem nine years earlier. Many pagans attributed the destruction of the region to the escape of giants that had been imprisoned under Vesuvius centuries earlier by Hercules.
Some salvage of buried possessions was attempted by a few survivors and by many mercenaries. One scavenger scribbled "Sodoma Gomora" (Sodom & Gomorrah) on the wall of a buried house in Pompeii. With at least 9 brothels, the city had been well known for its decadence as well as its splendor.